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Dooby's Coffee opens in Mount Vernon

After months of anticipation from Mount Vernon residents, Dooby’s Coffee opened Saturday in the building that once housed popular coffee shop Donna's.

Owner Phil Han says the coffee house features his four favorite things.  If “we can excel in coffee, in-house pastries, sandwiches, and craft beers, then we’re perfectly happy."

The cafe serves 12 draft beers and assortment of wines. Dooby's is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reviewers on Yelp praise the cafe's avocado toast and butter-brown chocolate chip cookies. 

A pop-up version of the coffeehouse had been operating over the last few months in the Hatch, Han's incubator that is located around the corner from Dooby's. Home accessories retailer zestt is moving into the pop-up space. Founded by Jessica Diehl and Benita Goldblattt, zestt sells contemporary textiles, art and accessories. 

Extensive renovation at 800 North Charles St. took place following a five-alarm fire in 2010. The fire forced local favorite restaurants Indigma, Donna’s and My Thai to close. Indigma has since opened across the street at 801 N. Charles St. and My Thai opened next to Heavy Seas Alehouse in the Tack Factory in Little Italy. Donna's is not reopening in the building. It has locations in the Village of Cross Keys and Charles Village. Its Columbia location closed in May.

The 2,500-square-foot location will have seating for 75 inside and an additional 22 seats outside once it gets its permit for outdoor seating. It will feature clean lines and natural colors.

Han says it took more than a year to settle on the perfect name for the coffeehouse. “Dooby” is Han’s childhood nickname and comes from a Korean word. 

Han says many Korean-Americans like himself are in the food service business, but he says a Korean-American owned coffeehouse was an unfilled niche. So, as a gift to the Korean-American community, he decided to jump in.

He first searched for a space in Howard County, home to many Korean-owned businesses. When he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he turned to the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.

“It was like a no-brainer spot for me. This is such an awesome place, with colleges, young professionals. The amount of art and creativity that surrounds us is just amazing.”

Han says he believes the neighborhood is looking forward to having a new coffee house in the now-renovated block. Many area residents have taken pictures and asked him when he is opening.
Source: Phil Han, owner, Dooby’s Coffee
Writer: Amy Landsman [email protected] 

Downtown Baltimore event space getting a facelift

The new owners of the Grand Historic Venue in downtown Baltimore is giving the ornate property a $500,000 facelift and adding new menus to modernize the event space in the next six months.
“We want to kick it up a few notches,” says Amy O’Connell director of sales and marketing.
The owners will start the renovations to the Grand in about 90 days and wrap up in six months, O’Connell says. The space will get new lighting and furniture so it looks more chic and modern. The Grand also has a new Food and Beverage Director, Cecil Rajendra, who will update the catering menu within the next 30 days to offer more farm-to-table, local and international fare, O’Connell says. The Grand hosts banquets, weddings, conferences and other events. The former Masonic Lodge debuted in 2006 after a $27 million renovation. 
The facelift comes after Garrison Investment Group and Chartres Lodging purchased the event space and attached hotel, which it renamed the Embassy Suites Downtown Baltimore. Formerly called the Tremont Plaza Hotel, the hotel officially became the Embassy Suites June 17. The Hilton brand property received a $14 million renovation, including new rooms, an updated lobby and lounge areas and new amenities so it looks more contemporary. It also got a new restaurant, B’more Bistro, which specializes in Chesapeake Bay cuisine.
The goal of the rebranding, O’Connell says, is to appeal to the “Hilton traveller,” someone who expects a certain level of quality from the Hilton brand. 

Writer: Daryl Hale
Source: Amy O'Connell, Embassy Suites

International pastry shop and cafe opens in Mount Vernon

There’s a new place in Mount Vernon for residents to pick up steamed pork buns, Cuban pastries, Turkish coffee and Paraguayan empanadas.

The Bun Shop opened last month at 239 W. Read St. Co-owner Andrew Bui says he and his business partner Minh Vo will expand the BYOB café’s offerings in the next month to include furniture, home goods and flowers since the 1,700-square-foot spot offers room to grow.

“Originally we wanted a small store front but we just found this place. It was a bakery so it had a lot of equipment that we needed that we couldn’t afford,” Bui says.

The owners also will begin selling Vietnamese spring rolls and other appetizers on the weekends starting this month. The café will host its first event with the May 17 launch party for Slight-Mag, a fashion magazine started by Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) students.

Childhood friends Bui and Bo spent about $30,000 to open the Bun Shop, using their own cash and money borrowed from family. Bui says he left a product design job in New York while Bo left his pharmacology Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University.

Bui says the Bun Shop has been attracting area residents, including MICA and University of Baltimore students, interested in late-night cheap eats. The Bun Shop is open until 3 a.m. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Andrew Bui, the Bun Shop

Darker Than Blue owner eyes Rotunda and Charles Village project for new location

The owner of Waverly’s Darker Than Blue Café is talking to the developers of two of Baltimore City’s biggest residential and retail projects near Johns Hopkins University about relocating the popular restaurant to a bigger spot. And he’s cooking up plans for a new eatery at his current home on Greenmount Avenue.

Casey Jenkins says he is working with Artios Retail LLC, a Bel Air leasing and brokerage firm, to assist with the expansion by 2015. The business owner is looking at the Rotunda in Hampden and the lot at 32nd Street and Saint Paul Street in Charles Village as possible locations for the expanded Darker Than Blue.

“Our dream is to move to a large development,” Jenkins says, noting that a larger development will give the restaurant more visibility.

Jenkins opened the 85-seat Darker Than Blue at 3034 Greenmount Ave. seven years ago. The move will hopefully allow him to seat as many as 150 in the expanded location. The new Darker Than Blue will be more polished and upscale and have less of a mom-and-pop feel.

The restaurant will still serve Southern-inspired food, including catfish and grits and chicken and waffles. Jenkins will also continue to feature regular live jazz. A bigger restaurant will allow Jenkins to feature new items, including a rotisserie with ribs, pork and chicken. 

Virginia’s Armada Hoffler and Baltimore’s Beatty Development Group LLC are leading the redevelopment of the lot near Johns Hopkins University. Formerly a condo project called the Olmsted, it is now dubbed the St. Paul Street Project in Charles Village.

New Jersey’s Hekemian & Co. is leading the $70M Rotunda redevelopment in Hampden, slated to include a local grocer, apartments and restaurants when it is completed in summer 2015.

Meanwhile, Jenkins says he will open a new restaurant in the current Darker Than Blue location — most likely West Indian or Latin. Jenkins says he’ll probably open up the space a little more, and that the new place will be a bit more casual than Darker Than Blue. The as-yet unnamed restaurant would seat the same number of people.

Jenkins is in expansion mode. In May, he’s opening Birdland Sports Bar and Grill in Cedmont.
Writer: Amy Landsman
Source: Casey Jenkins, owner of Darker Than Blue and Birdland Sports Bar & Grill

Japanese Tea House to Open in Ellicott City

A new gift shop and café called Matcha Time is making its home in downtown Ellicott City.

Owner Hatsumi Watanabe-Smith grew up outside Tokyo, and later traveled the world. Now she and her family are settled in Ellicott City, where she’s decided to open shop, named for the Japanese green tea known as matcha. The gift shop opened this month at the 1,000-square-foot space at 8381 Merryman St. The café will open in the coming months once it gets county approval.

Though Ellicott City is home to a tea room, Tea on the Tiber, Matcha Time will offer sushi, Japanese baked goods and, hopefully, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Watanabe-Smith and her husband Derek Smith invested about $70,000 in the store, whose entrance faces a parking lot. The space was previously home to the Hackers Inc. Mancave, which moved last spring to a larger location in Ellicott City. Smith says the search for a suitable space took months, as good locations in Ellicott City tend to get snapped up fast.

The space is divided between a retail section, and the teashop and café. The retail side features Japanese crafts, origami, and handbags and clutches fashioned from vintage kimonos.
Writer: Amy Landsman  [email protected]
Sources: Hatsumi Watanabe-Smith, Derek Smith, owners, Matcha Time

Indian Grocery Store Opens in Downtown Baltimore

Downtown residents now have a place to buy ingredients to make chicken tikka masala or palak paneer.
Annapurna Grocery and Gifts opened last week at 323 North Charles St, selling Indian and Nepalese spices, ready-to-eat foods, sweets and Korean noodles. Owner Ryan Thap, who also owns the neighboring Lumbini Restaurant, says he believes his grocery store will be well-received by downtown customers who appreciate ethnic foods but look for ways to save a buck. “They like the ready-to-eat foods. If they go to a restaurant for it though, they pay more than $20,” Thap says.
Thap says that although the grocery store has already opened, he will hold a Grand Opening in one month during which he plans to incorporate customer feedback and extend store hours from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. The store is currently open daily from 11.a.m.-8 p.m. Thap has already received specific customer feedback he plans to incorporate, like carrying more Indian vegetables, frozen foods and breads along with ingredients to make chicken curry and paneer. Customers with purchases of at least $100 can have their groceries delivered.
Thap planned to open the grocery store since February and invested $60,000 in the 1,600 square-foot space. He currently has one employee but is considering hiring two more.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Ryan Thap

Lauraville Salon to Cater to Women of Color

A new salon hopes to pamper women in Lauraville with makeup, cosmetics, lingerie, manicures, and pedicures. The 1,000-square-foot Aboni Amour will open Dec. 2 at 4600 Harford Road. 
Owner and Baltimore-native Ebony Tyson launched her makeup line, Aboni Cosmetics, last year and plans to feature the products such as foundation, lipstick, lip gloss and blush at the new location. The cosmetic line was previously sold exclusively online.

"I started the line because it's really hard for women of color to find makeup and colors that compliment our skin," Tyson says.

Tyson had been looking for a site to expand her makeup line. After hearing about the location in Lauraville, she decided it would make a good fit for her business. Tyson says she wants to offer a place for women to be pampered and have fun and wants her customers to see and feel the makeup on their skin before purchasing it.
For Tyson, the path to creating a makeup line and starting her own salon is personal. While in college, Tyson worked as a consultant selling makeup through a company, but the makeup she was selling didn't exist for women of color. Tyson, who is African-American, set out to create her own makeup line that catered to women with a myriad of skin tones.
Tyson taught herself how to create makeup using online tutorials and says her makeup line is all natural, healthy for the skin and safe for use with very sensitive skin.
The company is currently hiring two or three makeup artists.
A grand opening event will take place at the location on Dec. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Source: Ebony Tyson
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Brazilian Dance Studio Coming to Charles Street

Baltimore residents looking who want to get fit will soon get to incorporate South American-style martial arts into their workout routine.
The Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation will move into a 1,000 square-foot headquarters at 1 North Charles St. by January. Capoeira is an African and Brazilian form of martial arts that incorporates dance, music and song. 
ICAF-Baltimore's leader Skher Brown has been planning the move for close to two years after becoming a recipient of a Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.'s Operation Storefront grant. Operation Storefront grants were designed to stimulate business and activity in downtown’s abandoned buildings and were awarded to 10 applicants, including EMP Collective, D Center and Jody Davis Designs. Recipients got, on average, $10,000 each.
ICAF-Baltimore was established in 2004 and previously held classes at the Harlem Park Recreation Center and the Sankofa Dance Theater. Recently, Brown has offered classes at Goucher College. Brown says looks forward to having a downtown location and believes it will bring something new to the area.
“Capoeira is a great opportunity for physical assertiveness, it’s a form of self expressions,” Brown says. “Everybody can go the gym and knows about Pilates and yoga, but people will want to try something different.”
Participants range in age from children to seniors, while the average class size is 12. Classes are $15 but there will eventually be group rates, Brown says. Brown plans on possibly hiring as many as four instructors for the new space. He may also rent out the studio to other types of fitness teachers.  

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Skher Brown, Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation 

New Food Truck To Deliver African and Caribbean Foods

Baltimoreans who grab lunch on the go will soon have authentic West African and Caribbean food on the menu.
Baltimore resident Kia Tangara, a native of Mali, will start operating food truck Motherland Mobile Kitchen in various locations downtown Aug. 15.
Motherland will operate during the week in the morning until 3 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. depending on business. The selection will include African, Caribbean and American dishes including lamb, tilapia, plantains, chicken, cassava leaves and rice, couscous, lamb and chicken gyros and kabobs. All dishes will be priced between $5 and $10.
Tangara promises fresh ingredients. “It’s about buying everything fresh, cooking with fresh foods, and using different spices,” Tangara says. She will order lamb from a Philadelphia farm and is searching for venues in the Baltimore area that can supply fresh meat.
Tangara purchased her food truck in Philadelphia for $25,000 after comparing prices on Foodtruck.com. She plans to keep Motherland as a food truck rather than opening a physical eatery.
“It’s like having a restaurant already, but you don’t have to worry about paying high prices for electric or gas,” Tangara says. “A restaurant can deliver food, but with a food truck, people get to know you personally and follow you.”
Tangara would like to purchase a second food truck within the next six months for family members to operate in Virginia under her guidance. Tangara would like to eventually have a handful of food trucks, turning Motherland Mobile Kitchen into a small-scale company.
Tangara is currently searching for two employees: a driver and someone to run the grill.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Kia Tangara, Motherland Mobile 

Sushi Restaurant Checking Into BWI Airport

Soon you’ll be able to pick up a spicy tuna roll and chardonnay before you fly on AirTran Airways or Southwest Airlines.

A sushi restaurant by the name of Gachi will open late spring at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, airport spokesman Jonathan Dean confirmed. It will be located in the food court in Concourse A, according to the county liquor board.

Adding new shops and restaurants is a priority for the airport as airport traffic picks up, Dean says. BWI had a record year last year with 22,391,785 passengers.

“The airport is working to add a number of concessions,” Dean says. He couldn’t specify the type of concessions.

BWI wants to beef up offerings in Concourse A/B since AirTran shifted its operation there following its merger with Southwest Airlines, Dean says.

Gachi received a special airport concessionaire license, which allows it to sell any kind of alcoholic beverage.

Inez M. Setiabudi and Daniel Kurniawan, listed as the holders of the liquor license, could not be reached for comment. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Jonathan Dean, BWI; Anne Arundel County liquor board 

Kabob Joint Opens in Abacrombie Inn

It's out with the symphony crowd and in with the college kids for Midtown's Abacrombie Inn

Managers of the inn hope a new restaurant taking over the space formerly occupied by Abacrombie Fine Foods and serving Middle Eastern fare will appeal to a growing student population in the area.
Alladin Kabob opened this month in the Abacrombie Inn at 58 W. Biddle St. in Midtown, and managers hope that the new restaurant will be a hit with the student community at nearby University of Baltimore and Maryland Institute College of Art, says Todd Powell, managing director of the Abacrombie Inn.
The 2,400-square-foot restaurant serves Middle Eastern fare and also offer a hookah bar, Powell says.
Alladin Kabob has leased the space and made significant renovations to the former Abacrombie Fine Foods. With its proximity to Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the previous restaurant was a more upscale, fine dining experience often appealing to concert-goers, Powell says.
Powell is optimistic about future of the restaurant along with other businesses that have been redeveloped along nearby Charles Street.
The fate of the restaurant may be in the hands of college students who will soon be neighbors with the inn. 
This fall, the University of Baltimore will open a 323-bed residence hall at Maryland and Biddle Streets just next to the inn.

Source: Todd Powell, managing director of the Abacrombie Inn
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Renovations for Catonsville Grocery Store to Begin This Month

Hiring for the Lotte Plaza in Catonsville will begin early this summer as the grocery will employ as many as 75 for the new location.

The positions will be "typical retail supermarket positions," from cashiers to managers to bookkeepers, says Lotte Plaza Director Alvin Lee.  The company plans to hire from within the organization first and then reach out to the community at large, Lee says
The Asian market plans to open a store at One Mile West Shopping Center in Catonsville this summer and will compete a multimillion-dollar renovation of the 46,000-square-foot space, says Bob G. Pollokoff, president of The Fedder Co.

The remodeling of the building will begin later this month and will include renovations to both the inside and outside of the building. Lotte Plaza will remodel the interior of the building, turning it from a space formerly used as a toy store into a full-service grocery store, Pollokoff says.
Lotte Plaza will take over the space formerly occupied by Toys-"R"-Us at the shopping center that also includes Panera Bread and Pier 1 Imports at 6600 Baltimore National Pike. The Fedder Co., a commercial real estate development, investment, and management company that manages more than 1.8 million square-feet of commercial property in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, owns the property.
Lotte Plaza operates 13 markets in seven states including locations in Ellicott City, Germantown, and Silver Spring and employs over 300 employees.
Sources: Alvin Lee, director at Lotte Plaza and Bob G. Pollokoff, president of The Fedder Company.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding

Middle Eastern Restaurant and Smoke Shop Planned for Fells

A Baltimore businessman will open a Middle Eastern restaurant and smoke shop in Upper Fells Point, not far from the Brass Monkey SaloonAsahi Sushi and the Latin Palace.

Akram Ayyad will invest between $20,000 and $50,000 to open a 1,200-square-foot restaurant and smoke shop at 1611 Eastern Ave. The plan awaits approval from the city's zoning board, expected next month. Ayyad has yet to determine a name for the venue. 
Ayyad hopes to create a upscale casual venue that will serve light fare falafel and hummus, soft drinks and desserts. The business will also offer tobacco products such as cigars and possibly hookah. No alcohol will be served.
No major renovations are expected even though the building was used formerly as a clothing store, Ayyad says.
Ayyad plans to run the business with his brother. Together the brothers also operate additional business ventures such as a deli, and a small towing company. Ayyad moved to Baltimore 12 years ago from Jerusalem to join his extended family that has been here since the 1950s.
Baltimore’s zoning board rejected Ayyad’s initial application because unlike tobacco shops, smoke shops are not listed as permitted or conditional uses in Baltimore.
Smoking in restaurants has been banned in Baltimore since 2008 and is currently regulated by the Baltimore City Health Department. However, some businesses can apply for exemptions from the indoor smoking ban such as retail tobacco establishments.
A retail tobacco establishment can qualify if at least 75 percent of its revenues come from non-cigarette tobacco products, and the entry of minors is prohibited.
If the appeal goes through, tobacco products will make up 75 percent of sales at the yet unnamed restaurant with the remainder on food, Ayyad says.
Pending approval for the zoning board and other city agencies, Ayyad hopes the establishment will open in late May.
Source: Akram Ayyad, business owner
Writer: Alexandra Wilding

New Event Center and Restaurant Planned for Cherry Hill

A two-story restaurant and event center offering live music, dinner theatre, and comedy shows is slated to open in late February in Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood.

Angels Event Center aims to provide a place for local talent to be showcased in a community that doesn't have many dining and entertainment options, Owner Julie Mosteller says.

"If you provide something, people will come,” Mosteller says. “Everyone has an opportunity to change. I want to be part of that positive change.”

The downstairs of the building will be a restaurant – whose menu is still being developed -- and the upstairs will hold entertainment. Mosteller says two jazz groups are lined up to perform and that she plans to provide an intimate and authentic dinner theatre experience.

Mosteller, a Baltimore native, graduated from Western High School and spent five years working as a Baltimore police officer. She also served in the military and is using some of her veteran’s benefits to start the business. Mosteller declined to disclose the amount she's invested in the event center, but the project is her first restaurant. 

Additionally, Mosteller hopes to empower people in the community by offering events at the center such as financial literacy workshops.

Angels Event Center is located at 1810 Cherry Hill Rd. in Baltimore.

Writer: Alexandra Wilding
Source: Julie Mosteller

Living Classrooms Opening New Community Center

A community center providing services and programs for underserved families will open in a historic rehabilitated firehouse Thursday in the Perkins Homes community.

Called the P.O.W.E.R. House, which stands for Providing Opportunities to Work, Expand, and Rise, the community center is the latest facility created by the Living Classrooms Foundation. It is located at 316 S. Caroline St., just north of Fells Point.

With 688 units, Perkins Homes is one of the largest public housing developments in Baltimore City. Having a community center in the middle of Perkins Homes without having to travel outside of the neighborhood will be an asset, says Living Classrooms CEO James Piper Bond.

“It’s going to be a beacon of hope for the community, and we’re honored to lead the way,” Bond says.

The project is six years in the making, and a partnership between the public and private sectors. The house has received support from a variety of foundations and companies including Commercial Interiors and SunTrust Bank, Bond says.

Some of the amenities include multipurpose rooms for community meetings, after-school activities, a computer lab, and a financial literacy center. The Perkins Homes Tenant Council will also have an office in the space.

Living Classrooms will a offer after-school and summer programming on site for youth in education and career development, civic development, health and life skills and the arts.

The P.O.W.E.R. House is located within Living Classrooms’ Eastside Target Investment Zone, an initiative that seeks to provide opportunities and create safer neighborhoods for underserved communities through education and workforce development.

Writer: Alexandra Wilding
Source: James Piper Bond, Living Classrooms
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